RAW versus Jpeg: the Smackdown!

Okay, it’s not really all that epic. But I thought it would be interesting to show just how much post-processing can be done in RAW format.  I don’t always do this much post-processing to my photographs, but I never found that I was able to do anything like this in plain old Jpeg format (and I felt pretty good with Photoshop, having used it for many, many years).

My Olympus EP-2 takes shots in something called Jpeg+RAW, which is a really useful feature. Every shot is recorded as both a Jpeg, and a RAW file. What’s useful about this is that RAW files don’t produce thumbnails, so when I open up my files, the RAW files are just blank white squares. I can’t see which ones are worth opening in Photoshop and which aren’t. But in Jpeg+RAW, the Jpeg file and RAW file have the same name (PS12046.jpg and PS12046.orf, for example), so I scroll through the Jpegs, seeing which ones look promising, then I open the RAW files with the same names, and process those.

Here is a photo of my son I took tonight, in plain old Jpeg, unadjusted in any way:

Here’s the same Jpeg, adjusted in Photoshop to optimize the color and light:

Now, that’s a nice photo. But eh… there’s nothing special about it. To me, it just doesn’t “pop.” Unless you love my kid, there’s no reason to look at it.

Here’s the same photo, processed as a RAW file. I took down the color saturation, upped the blacks and the contrast, sharpened the image, adjusted the white balance, etc. I like it better this way. It’s not as bland and everyday.

To me, this is just a more interesting photo. I’m sure not everyone will agree.

At any rate, I like what I can do with RAW files. I have more control, and more artistic “freedom,” I guess.


2 thoughts on “RAW versus Jpeg: the Smackdown!

  1. RAW is a solid format and it is what I usually shoot in. Jpeg on the other hand is more reasonable and easier to upload because of file size issues. Regardless, I think both have their place.

    • The thing about Jpeg I find is that memory cards and processors are so impressively large and fast now, that there’s no reason to shoot solely in Jpeg unless you hate post-processing. If you just want to upload your photos and be done, RAW wouldn’t be a good choice. But my 8GB Scandisc can hold about 500 Jpeg+RAW files, so that really doesn’t hold me back. Considering they now come in 32GB versions… 🙂

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